A total of 2.01 billion unique viewers tuned in to watch coverage from Beijing across linear TV and digital platforms, representing a five per cent increase on the audience for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Viewers around the world watched a combined 713 billion minutes of Games coverage on Olympic Media Rights Partners’ channels – an 18 per cent increase compared with PyeongChang 2018, underlining the continued appetite for Olympic broadcast coverage in an increasingly fragmented media landscape.
Media Rights Partners made more hours of coverage available to fans than at any previous Olympic Winter Games edition, including a record 120,670 hours through digital platforms.
Other findings include that almost half of the Beijing 2022 viewers surveyed said they wanted to watch more coverage of the Olympic Games in the future. This appetite is particularly strong amongst the youth demographic, with 57 per cent of 13- to 19-year-old viewers wanting to watch more Olympic Games coverage in the coming years.
In addition to the significant increases in digital viewing and consumption of broadcast coverage, the Olympics web and app platforms reached 68 million unique users during Beijing 2022 – more than double the reach achieved during the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Olympic social media handles also achieved an incredible 3.2 billion engagements throughout the Games period, attracting more than 11 million new followers across various platforms.
This resulted in Beijing 2022 becoming the most digitally engaged Olympic Winter Games ever, with new technologies and digital innovations allowing more fans than ever to watch, follow and engage with the Games on a variety of platforms and devices. Indeed, according to the independent research, two out of every three people surveyed followed the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in some capacity.
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Beijing 2022 was the most digitally engaged Olympic Winter Games in history. In close cooperation with our Media Rights Partners around the world, more coverage was made available than ever before, including a record amount via digital platforms. With a global audience of over 2 billion, the Olympic Winter Games continue to be one of the most watched sports events in the world.”
In a survey conducted with the athletes participating in Beijing, it was clearly demonstrated that participation in the Games was important to them, with 91 per cent stating their motivation was “to compete at the biggest multi-sports event on earth” and 90 per cent revealing a desire “to represent [their] country”.
The athletes also rated their Olympic experience highly and were satisfied with the COVID-19 countermeasures that were in place for the Games.
The broadcast research and consumer and athlete surveys were conducted by Publicis Sport & Entertainment. The consumer studies surveyed more than 28,000 people in February and March 2022 across 16 countries, with all respondents aged between 13 and 65.
On 22 February 2021, U.S. Representative John Katko from New York called for a United States boycott of the 2022 Olympic Games, citing human rights concerns and the Chinese Communist Party’s actions against the country’s own Uyghur population, including displacement and imprisonment of civilians in the Xinjiang internment camps. Representative Katko published an open letter recommending a boycott to the House Committee on Homeland Security, as well as President Biden, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and the International Olympic Committee. In the open letter, Katko cited an earlier 19 January 2021 statement from then-serving U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in which Pompeo stated that, “since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican Nikki Haley, announced her support of a possible boycott, authoring a 25 February 2021 op-ed for Fox News titled “Amb. Nikki Haley: Biden should boycott China’s Winter Olympics next year”, comparing the government and ideology of Nazi Germany to that of “Communist China”, urging President Biden to boycott the Olympics in collaboration with American-allied nations. Haley further compared the future 2022 Beijing Games to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the last Olympics to be held before the outbreak of World War II.
In an unrelated interview on 5 March 2021, former Secretary Pompeo stated that the United States should withdraw from the 2022 Olympic Games. In an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Pompeo cited “nasty activity” by the Chinese government as evidence to support a boycott.
On 19 October 2021, American figure skater Evan Bates described the situation in Xinjiang as “terrible” and “awful”, and Vincent Zhou and Nathan Chen, skaters of Chinese descent, echoed Bates’ statement over the human rights situation in Xinjiang.
On 6 December 2021, President Biden announced that the United States would diplomatically boycott the Olympic Games. Unlike a complete boycott, it did not have any impact for any athletes from the United States attending the Winter Games.
A boycott of the 2022 Olympic Games would have been the second American-led boycott of the modern Olympic Games. The United States and 65 other nations boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were primarily held in Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, in present-day Russia. The bloc cited the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan as their rationale for the boycott, with the United States hosting a substitute track and field event called the Liberty Bell Classic, with China in attendance. Four years later, the Soviet Union and 14 of its allies then boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles, United States. The Soviet-allied countries then substituted the 1984 Olympics by organizing the Friendship Games (which was attended by China). The Friendship Games were held in a variety of venues, including the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Cuba, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, and East Germany (now part of Germany). Despite participating in the Friendship Games, China also participated at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, participating for the first time since 1952 and having boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow due to the Sino-Soviet split.